In 2008, the Plantashun Boiz reunited for what was to be one final bang in the discography of the boy group, but a moment meant to deliver a closure to their breakup ended up leaving more questions than bangers.
Happy endings are more fairy tales than reality so unfortunately, when groups do make an effort to come back together, it mostly never turns out to be the second coming their fans might have dreamt of.
No matter how great they once were, a combination of bad timing and bloated egos can ruin any group’s shot at reclaiming former glories, and that was the case with the Plantashun Boiz.
At the height of the modern pop evolution in the late ‘90s, the trio of Ahmedu Augustine Obiabo (Blackface), Innocent Idibia (2face) and Chibuzor Oji (Faze) together known as the Plantashun Boiz stood at its apex as one of the biggest music groups of the decade.
The band’s signature style, an infusion of pop, rap and reggae, helped introduce a generation of young music fans to the world of three talented boys that were emerging as leading voices of the new school.
The name, Plantashun Boiz is edged firmly in the annals of Nigerian music history as not just leaders of a new wave of pop talents but a young, vibrant and talented assemble of individuals.
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‘Body and Soul’, the group’s debut album released in 2000 allegedly sold over 600,000 official copies, if numbers put out by the group members and their producer, Nelson Brown, are to be believed.
The debut album witnessed the rise of the boys becoming men, a springboard to the high ranks of music greats.
With breakout singles like You And I, Knock Mi Off, Don’t You Know and If Life, Plantashun Boiz delivered a body of work that kicked off a paradigm shift in the history of the Nigerian music industry.
But then, the years following the success of their debut album would be riddled with distractions, rumors of conflict with their producer and label executive, Nelson Brown, outright lack of focus and endless media scrutiny into their private lives.
But the boys stuck together and three years later, they released their sophomore effort, ‘Sold Out’.
Despite coming out at a time when a lot of their fans were no longer sure of the allegiance of the members of the group, ‘Sold Out’ was a testament to the commercial success of their debut album and packed some power singles like One And Only and Only You.
However around the same time the album was released in 2003, what began as baseless rumours soon started to gain weight.
Plantashun Boiz was about to break up, ‘’Yes Blackface was tired of the rest of the group and did not want to work with them anymore,’’
‘’No o, they just want to let go of Faze, he was not contributing much but was still getting an equal share of the performance fees,’’. ‘’It is actually 2face, he is now proud, he wants to leave.’’
The rumours were endless and even though weeks before the eventual news of their break up emerged, the trio had performed together on stage at Comedian, Okey Bakassi’s Lafta Fiesta in September 2003, where they denied any chance of the boys going solo.
Time like they say reveals all things as 2face Idbia, the MVP of the group soon penned a solo deal with Kennis Music, the biggest music label in the land at the time, and before their fans could come to terms with the situation, there was already a printed promo CD copy with the inscription; ”Kennis Music proudly presents 2face Idibia” in circulation.
2face had gone solo, and despite the initial reactions of shock and denial, Blackface and Faze eventually followed suit bringing an end to the chapter in the life of the group known as Plantashun Boiz.
The successive years turned out to be dramatic with Blackface and 2face at loggerheads as the former threatened to go to court over claims that he was the original writer of the hit song, ‘African Queen’.
Fourteen years after the release of the album, Face2Face, the song, African Queen, which is arguably the biggest pop single of the 2000s, stays timeless and remains a classic crowd pleaser at shows.
The song became a global commercial success, inspiring covers and remixes, topping music charts across Africa, winning numerous awards, and catapulted his status into the place of legends.
In his November 2017 LooseTalk interview, Blackface accused 2face of not giving him his due credit as the writer of the song, a song he stated was actually written by him as a soundtrack to a pageant, and this led to bad blood between the duo that lasted for years.
On what led to the group’s split, Blackface in another interview earlier in the year blamed 2face for the breakup, ”Once you are in a group, you must consider the interest of everyone in it, but at some point, one of us was only interested in what he wanted for himself, he was responsible for the end of Plantashun Boiz because he was selfish”, he says.
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In 2007, news filtered in that the boys were coming together for one final album, brokered by the infamous Alaba music distributor Tochukwu Okoye, popularly known as TJoe, owner of TJoe Records.
There is no disputing the fact that Plantashun Boiz offered timeless music, for a Nigerian boy group that remains one of the most loved pop groups, backed by a fan base that trickles into unquantifiable numbers, many were looking up to the project with pumped up expectation and euphoria for what was termed the biggest reunion party of 2008.
The coming together of three talented acts who started out as members of a group but have since plied the individual route for the last four years and have grown wiser, more confident, each fully finding his artistic direction and sound.
Faze was no longer the guy in the background, who is only known for his falsettos, nope, he was now a successful solo artiste that has proven to many that he could make it, even as Faze Alone.
According to the label, Westsyde Music, his debut album ‘Faze Alone’ which was released in 2004 allegedly sold over 1.2million units few months after it was released with the lead single, ‘Faze Alone’ reaching the peak of music charts nationwide.
The song also won him the Best Male vocal performance at the 2006 Headies.
Blackface may have deviated from the smooth RnB/Rapper character he portrayed as a member of the band, but his music was niche, one in a lane of his own and he was not just building a legion of new fans, Blackface was championing a family of Ghetto kids with his brand of Ragga music and despite the initial shock to his fans, it was all finally making sense.
As for 2face, well, we all know how that story went. He grew into an icon and one of the greatest artists of his generation.
So it was almost a given that a project featuring these three who shot it down even when they were still rookies will cause a uproar on the sound scape, but somehow Plan B was not what the doctor recommended.
Parading eight original tracks, one remix and two instrumentals, Plantashun Boiz delivered the Plan B album in 2008 but it was an album that had crashed even before take-off, promising much yet offering very little.
Individually, the songs on the album were not exactly bad songs, but they lived more in the past than point a way into the future.
After waiting for five full years, with the level of visibility that the trio have earned as solo acts, anything short of an explosion was probably going to go down as just a whisper and that is what Plan B generated in the heart of Nigerian music lovers, a mere whisper.
So what went wrong?
‘’Whatever the outcome of the album is now, was what I think they set out for it to be, the big loser here is TJoe, who made sure they got everything they wanted, the boys said they wanted a certain sum of money, he gave them.
But there had to be a certain type of chemistry and commitment from the guys towards this project, but it wasn’t there.
I know everyone had individual schedule at the time for them to meet, but sitting in through some of their sessions, I don’t feel like there was actually that conscious effort, that genuine commitment to create time for this album.
‘’It was just another windfall of free money for them… The Boiz did not even make themselves available for the major press conference at Oceanview to announce the album,’’ says Obinna Agwu, renowned artist manager, who was a consultant for TJoe Records at the time.
Outside the three members of the group, a major actor in this reunion plot is Tjoe, the marketer who put money on the table to make the reunion happen and even imported merch. (branded shirts and wrist-brands) as promotion materials.
In an exclusive interview with Pulse, TJoe looks back at the entire period with regret as he declares, ”I didn’t make up-to 10Million out of the project, it was a total loss… I still have some merchandise at home, even the first set of copies of the album were produced outside the country, I gained nothing.”
Refusing to state exactly how much he paid each member of the group, TJoe however said, ”To be precise, the entire project cost 65Million including the recording, the videos, press conferences, album launch and payment of the artistes”.
Speaking further on what he felt went wrong with the project, ”There was this issue of, ‘I am the songwriter of the group’, which Blackface brought into play and it didn’t go down well with everybody…
The major factor that worked against the success of the album was friction between them and I will say there was this complex issue, in a room where you will see 2face doing his thing, Faze will not be comfortable writing or recording in the presence of everybody, especially 2face.”
Remembering incidents that almost boiled over during one of the recording sessions, ”There was this particular song, we had two versions of it, it didn’t make the album.
I didn’t actually approve it because Blackface was going with one beat that was produced by Spanky, and 2face and Faze went with another beat that was produced by Nathaniel George (Natz).
And at the end of the day, because I paid for the studio for a length of two months plus, anybody can come in and record at anytime, Faze and 2face recorded on one of the beats and Blackface went and recorded on the other one, so that was one.”
‘‘There was another day, there was this argument, it was so elaborate that very day that everybody busted, especially 2face that was usually calm.
Blackface was insisting on doing the lead and 2face was telling him, ‘No’, that Faze had a better voice to take it, but Black disagreed, and 2face angrily walked out of the studio, and didn’t record again that very day, he later came back and did his own verse.
He however admitted to some failings on his own part, ”I never knew it was going to happen this way, even though 2face had warned me ahead that these issues may come up and gave me the guidelines to help things work out but I never listened to him, I went and did it my way.
I thought I was going to be able to manage the personalities instead of handing it over to the managements, it was a total mistake.”
In 2017, Blackface was a guest on pop culture Podcast, LooseTalk, where he stated his own perspective on events that happened during the reunion;
”On the Plan B album, Plan B was just because of the fact that there was money on the table… That would have been great if everybody had the mindset of togetherness, of teamwork.
I started hearing that my friend, 2face will take Sound Sultan to the studio behind my back, and it was a Plantashun Boiz project… artistes vibe together you get into the music and people start to think about what to write, but you didn’t vibe with nobody… I was angry that the album came out.
We were in the studio recording… but there was no vibe, I no like the album, I no tell you lie.
Asked if he could ever work with 2face again, he replied, ”Naa, we never gon do that”
Faze on his part agrees that the Plan B album was not what a Plantashun Boiz reunion should have been, in an interview granted to Saturday Beats in 2015, he says “To me, I don’t think that was our best, we were just playing around. If we sit down to write a song, people would be surprised because I know what Blackface can write.
He has the knowledge and he is very good at writing. Tuface has the rhythm and melody; I also know how to write and I have my melody. It is just for us to put our minds to it and we would have one of the best albums of all times.”
Pulse tried to get 2face’s reaction but his team informed us that he would rather not comment on the topic.
At the end of the day, this was a reunion built on money and not an opportunity to create a moment and further seal the place of Plantashun Boiz in the legacy of groups who scored a successful reunion.
Outside the names and star power, the trio offered nothing more which is a pointer to how much the bond of friendship has cracked and how far gone they are after the fallout.
When groups break up, particularly at the peak of their careers, there’s always a feeling of thwarted potential.
Fans will cry for the days when a new song could be just around the corner, and speculate wildly on what magical new music could happen if everyone involved would just let bygones be bygones and take to the stage once more.
But as the Plan B reunion album proved to us all, maybe we should indeed just be grateful for what they once were and not what our imaginations believe they can yet offer.